What colors fit your house?

A few months ago, Tatiana and Jim Matthews were ready to change the color of their Dunwoody house. But choosing the right paint color seemed a daunting process.

For help, the Matthews consulted with Alpharetta designer Linda Schneider, who selected paint colors for the house’s body and trim.

At first, Tatiana was hesitant about going from a light to a darker trim. But she’s glad she did.

“Almost every day someone tells me it looks great and like a totally different house,” said Tatiana.

For homeowners, like the Matthews, painting a house represents a significant financial and emotional commitment.

“The color of your house makes a statement about you,” said Sonu Mathew, senior interior designer at the Benjamin Moore & Co. “It is a very public display of a very personal choice.”

While a home’s color can make a first impression, it also can manipulate our perceptions. The color can make a small house look larger, project a mood or make a single home stand out among a neighborhood of lookalikes. It also can accentuate a home’s best features or camouflage it flaws, experts say.

While there is no one color or palette that works on every house, the right paint color should make you smile every time you pull in the driveway, said Terry Pylant of Historical Concepts, an architectural firm with offices in Atlanta and Peachtree City.

To eliminate surprises (and disappointments) and gain confidence with color, consider these color tips from Mathew, Pylant and Jackie Jordan of Sherwin-Williams.

What to keep in mind

- Consider the colors around your house that will not change, including your roof shingles, driveway or any brick or stone accents. Coordinate paint colors with these existing features.

- Choose a color scheme that blends with your landscaping, the natural surroundings and your neighborhood.

- Consider the architectural style of your house when selecting a palette.

- Check before you paint. If you live in an area with a homeowner’s association, color rules may apply. If you live in an historic district, you may need to consult with a local review board before making any palette changes.

- Add color by highlighting details, such as doors, shutters or other architectural details. Light colors can add size. Dark colors can inject drama.

Avoid mistakes

- As a general rule, choose the body color first.

- Buy a quart or samples of the paints you like. Test the paint on a large piece of scrap board or foam board. Better yet, paint both walls on the corner of your house. View the test sample(s) at different times of the day as the light changes before you make a final decision. This may also help you decide if the color you loved on a small paint chip is what you want covering the house.

- Select the right type of paint for the project.

- Properly prepare the surface and apply the finish.

Paint by number

- Most homes today employ three or four colors: a main shade for the body, a trim color for architectural detail, an accent color for the front door and a fourth shade for shutters or other details, like a garage door.

- The front door is a natural focal point of most homes. It is an opportunity to use a “punch” of color. It is your chance to use a playful or favorite color you have always loved.

- Tried and true combinations. We like to refer to the historical color collections of Sherwin-Williams and Benjamin Moore, said Pylant.

- Relaxed Khaki (body) and Universal Khaki (by Sherwin-Williams) are good colors for homes in the Atlanta area, said Jordan.

- High-contrast color schemes look best on cottages.

- A safe and effective approach to color placement is to select two tints or shades from the same color strip a few shades apart. Either the lighter or darker shade could be used for the body and the opposite for the trim.

Trends

- Darker body colors.

- Painting brick. There are many historical examples of painted brick, which is a continuing trend in Atlanta and across the South. “It is a great way to refresh a tired façade and give it a look that is both current and traditional,” said Pylant.

- Color preferences change as people move from one part of the country to another, bringing the colors they are familiar with to a new area.

- Paints that last longer and are better made.

Resources

- Consult with a professional. Many architects, designers and decorators will do color consultations for an hourly fee. Some paint stores, such as Northside Decorating in Roswell, have an in-house color specialist. For an appointment with Kathleen Toner, contact 770-998-2998 or visit northsidedecorating.com

- Check paint company websites, including www.benjaminmoore.com, www.sherwin-williams.com and www.ppgporterpaints.com, offer interactive, color selector tools so you can see what a color looks like on your house. Some also have facebook pages, where you can post a picture of your house and ask for color suggestions.

- Pick up free brochures at home and paint stores. The brochures offer various exterior color options and are geared to the architecture of your home.

- For inspiration, look in magazines or visit houzz.com for color combinations that excite you.

- Drive around your neighborhood or areas you like to see colors on real homes.

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